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Bipartisan committee support for charter revenue bill

Colorado charter schools have long complained about being left on the sidelines when districts ask voters for additional operating funds through what are called mill levy overrides.

House Bill 14-1314, approved 12-0 Monday by the House Education Committee, wouldn’t guarantee charters a slice of the revenue pie, but it would require they have a seat at the table when districts consider whether to ask voters for overrides.

The bill “seeks to increase the cooperation between districts and their charter schools,” said prime sponsor Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood. The bill has bipartisan sponsorship and is modeled on a 2008 law that requires charter school participation in planning for district bond issues.

Don Schaller, advocacy director for the Colorado League of Charter Schools, testified that one of the challenges facing charters is “consistent access to local revenue” and that if the bill passes, “the charter school voice will at least be brought to the table.”

Representatives of some other advocacy groups, including the Colorado Association of School Boards, also supported the bill.

The bill would require:

  • Inclusion of charter representatives on override planning committees and in any other district study and decision-making methods
  • Districts to consider and prioritize charter requests for override revenues
  • Mutual agreement on division or allocation of new revenues
  • A district to formally notify a charter if it chooses not to include a charter request in a ballot proposal

Even after consultation, the decision to include a charter in an override proposal would be solely up to a district’s board. (The bill wouldn’t apply to charters overseen by the state Charter School Institute, which doesn’t have taxing authority.)

The bill also contains provisions governing the sharing of election costs between districts and their charters.

Tax overrides enable districts to raise additional property tax revenue, usually for specific purposes. Override revenues aren’t counted as part of the basic state/local revenues known as Total Program Funding and sometimes have been criticized as contributing to financial disparities between districts.

Read the bill text here and See the bill summary here.

Bills keep trickling in

The House and Senate have big backlogs of education (and other) bills to consider, but that hasn’t stopped new ones from being introduced.

Unveiled in the Senate Monday was Senate Bill 14-167, which would create a pilot program under which two small groups of alternative education campuses would receive 30 percent increases in per-pupil funding to pay for new initiatives and programs to increase student achievement in such schools.

Alternative education campuses are defined as schools that serve populations that are at least 95 percent at risk. They generally serve older students. There has been concern in recent years about student turnover and low completion rates at such schools and debate about the appropriate accountability measures for those campuses. See this story for background on the accountability debate, and read the bill here.

For those who weren’t paying attention last Friday, Sen. Mike Johnston’s bill to allow districts one-year of flexibility in using student growth to evaluate teachers was introduced as Senate Bill 14-165. It will be heard in Senate Education on Wednesday morning. (See this story for background and read the bill here.)

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